Emanuel Lasker – Jose Raul Capablanca

St. Petersburg, 1914


Emanuel Lasker

Maybe you didn’t know that the first players to be recognized as Grandmasters were Emanuel Lasker, Jose Raul Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Siegbert Tarrasch, and Frank Marshall. Those titles were awarded by the Russian Tsar Nicholas II after the 1914 St. Petersburg tournament. The tournament included most of the world’s top players and Emanuel Lasker, World Champion at the time, won it.

Emanuel Lasker – Jose Raul Capablanca

St. Petersburg, 1914

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d4 exd4 6. Qxd4 Qxd4 7. Nxd4 Bd6

7… Bd7 and long castle might have been better.

8. Nc3 Ne7 9. O-O O-O 10. f4 Re8 11. Nb3

A necessary move in order to prevent the active Bc5.

11… f6 12. f5!

This is a very difficult move. Pawn e4 becomes backward and Black gets e5 square for his pieces. However, Lasker saw that. In order to reach e5 with the Knight, Black has to play c5, which will lock dark-squared Bishop. Also, Bc8 is now very limited with space. 50 years later, at the Olympiad in Habana, Fischer employed similar method against Unziker.

12… b6 13. Bf4 Bb7?

A mistake, as Capablanca pointed right after the game. Black pawns will be straightened up, but White has new target for his Rooks on d6 and Knight is storming to the weak square e6. Better was 13… Bxf4 14. Rxf4 c5 (preventing Nd4-e6) 15. Rd1 Bb7

14. Bxd6! cxd6 15. Nd4 Rad8

15… Bc8 16. Rad1 with strong pressure along d-file.

16. Ne6 Rd7 17. Rad1 Nc8

Black agrees on passive defense. Much better was c5, even if d5 remains weak, Knight would be able to get on e5 outpost. Now Lasker is doubling Rooks on d-file.

18. Rf2 b5 19. Rfd2 Rde7 20. b4!

Slowing down possible counterplay.

20… Kf7 21. a3 Ba8

Prolonging with passivity is equal to suicide. White will now slowly gain space on the kingside, too. Maybe it was time for an exchange sacrifice 21… Rxe6 22. fxe6+ Rxe6

22. Kf2 Ra7 23. g4 h6 24. Rd3 a5 25. h4 axb4 26. axb4 Rae7

The open a-file is of no use – there are no entry points.

27. Kf3 Rg8 28. Kf4 g6 29. Rg3 g5+ 30. Kf3

This is better than 30. hxg5 hxg5+ 31. Kf3 Rh8 and Black might get counter play over h-file.

30… Nb6 31. hxg5 hxg5 32. Rh3!

Doesn’t take pawn! 32. Rxd6 Nc4 with Ne5-Rh8 and Black starts talking.

32… Rd7 33. Kg3 Ke8 34. Rdh1 Bb7 35. e5!

Everything is set for the breach. Lasker is cleaning e4 square and his Knight enters the attack with huge power.

35… dxe5 36. Ne4 Nd5 37. N6c5

Tactical justification of a temporal pawn sacrifice. Moving the Rook would have ran into Nd6 fork.

37… Bc8 38. Nxd7 Bxd7 39. Rh7 Rf8 40. Ra1 Kd8 41. Ra8+ Bc8 42. Nc5 and as there is no defense from Rd7 or Ne6, Capablanca resigned 1-0.

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Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe

1926 match, game 2


Max Euwe

Alexander Alekhine and Max Euwe played their first match in December 1926/January 1927, while Capablanca was still the world champion. Alekhine had just returned from his 4-months journey to South America. He entered the friendly match, arranged one year earlier, as part of his training for the world championship. The match was shortly adjourned because Alekhine had to travel to Paris to settle the terms with the organizers of the New York 1927 tournament.

Alexander Alekhine – Max Euwe

1926/27, game 2

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3

Here Alekhine considered 4.Qb3 and 4.e3 as best.

4.. b6 5. g3 Bb7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O Bxc3 8. bxc3 d6

Black wants to prepare Nbd7 and e5, but this move was imprecise because White has strong d5. Better was 8…Qc8 or 8…Be4

9. d5! exd5

9… e5 10. Nh4 Nbd7 11. e4 with f4 next and White has the advantage.

10. Nh4 Ne4

10… c6 11. cxd5 Nxd5 (11… cxd5 12. c4!) 12. c4 Nb4 13. a3 N4a6 14. Bb2 and Nf5 is coming.

11. cxd5 Re8

Grabbing the c3 pawn is dangerous 11… Nxc3 12. Qd3 Na4 13. Be4 h6 14. Qd4 Nc5 15. Nf5 f6 16. Bc2 White has crushing attack.

12. Bb2

12. Qd3 Nc5 13. Qc2 b5 14. c4 bxc4 15. Bb2 Nbd7 16. Nf5 f6 is unclear.

12… b5

Almost the only reply possible. White was threatening c4 and Nf5.

13. a4

Euwe mentioned Qd4 in his book as better move. Alekhine gave two possible lines: 13. Qd4 c5 (13… Qf6 14. f3 Qxd4+ 15. cxd4 Nd2 16. Rf2 Nc4 17. e4 Nd7) 14. dxc6 Nxc6 15. Qd3 Ne5 16. Qxb5 Qb6 17. a4 Bc6

13… Qg5

Winning d5 pawn but at the cost of delayed queenside development.

14. axb5 Qxd5 15. Qa4

Setting up a trap. Still, trading Queens was better solution because White has superior ending 15. Qxd5 Bxd5 16. Ra4 Nf6 17. e3 Bxg2 18. Kxg2 Nbd7 19. Rfa1 Reb8 20. c4 Rb7 21. Bd4 Nb6 22. Rb4 Nfd7 23. Nf5; Also possible was 15. c4 Qxd1 (15… Qxc4 16. Ra4) 16. Rfxd1 a6

15… Nd7

15… Qd2 16. b6 Bc6 17. b7 was the trick.

16. c4 Qd2

After the White Queen got stuck on the queenside, Alekhine is grabbing the initiative.

17. Qa2 a6!

Strong move, forcing an endgame where Black has upper hand. 17… Qxe2 18. Nf5 was wrong

18. Bc1 Qxa2 19. Rxa2 axb5 20. Rb2

20. Rxa8 Bxa8 21. cxb5 Nc3


Thanks to Nc3, Black is still winning a pawn!

21. cxb5 Nc3 22. Bc6

Another cheap trick, but White has nothing better. Alekhine is avoiding the bumps and claims decisive advantage with a strong blow.


22… Bxc6 23. bxc6 Rxb2 24. cxd7

23. Rb3 Bxc6 24. Rxc3 Bxb5 25. Rxc7 Ne5 26. Nf5

A blunder that allows Alekhine to perform a nice combination. Probably a better try was 26. Bf4 h6 27. Bxe5 Rxe5 28. Rb1 Rbe8 29. Nf3 Rd5

26… Nf3+ 27. Kg2

27. Kh1 Re5

27… Ne1+ 28. Kh3 Re5 29. Rh1

White is losing the exchange anyway 29. Rg1 Nf3 30. Rd1 Rxf5 or 29. Rxe1 Rxe1 30. Nxd6

29… Nd3 30. Ne7+ Kf8 31. Ba3 Nxf2+ 32. Kg2 Nxh1 33. Bxd6 Re6 34. Bc5 Re8 35. Nf5+ Kg8 36. Ne7+ Kh8 37. Kxh1 Bd3 38. Kg2 h6 39. Kf3 Kh7 40. h4 h5 0-1

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